Novo Nordisk, citing strong Wegovy demand, doubles 2025 sales target for obesity franchise

With a supply hitch expected to blow over soon, Novo Nordisk has high hopes for newly minted obesity med Wegovy. In fact, the company has more than doubled its previous 2025 sales target for the fast-growing franchise. 

Novo Nordisk is gunning for more than 25 billion Danish krone ($3.72 billion) in obesity sales by 2025, the company said Thursday. Novo had previously aimed (PDF) to generate around 11.35 billion Danish krone (roughly $1.69 billion) by the middle of the decade, based on earlier weight loss med Saxenda’s 2019 sales of 5.7 billion Danish krone ($849 million).

These days, Novo’s obesity ambitions hinge on Wegovy, the company’s latest GLP-1 blockbuster-in-waiting, which clinched an FDA nod in June.

In less than a year, the number of doctors prescribing Wegovy has eclipsed Saxenda, Novo said in a presentation for its 2022 capital markets day. The drug has also reached more than 70% commercial formulary access within half-a-year of launch, Novo added.

But demand for the drug was so great last year that it outstripped supply in the U.S., Jefferies analysts wrote in a note to clients last summer. That led to temporary delays on the filling of some prescriptions, the analysts wrote.

Things became more complicated in December when Novo announced the drug would run short after a contract manufacturer performing syringe filling had to halt deliveries over issues with good manufacturing practices.

Still, Novo remains confident it can meet U.S. demand for Wegovy in the second half of the year, the company said in Thursday’s presentation. Production is expected to kick off in the second quarter, with Novo’s contract manufacturer planning to initiate media fill test runs “in the coming weeks.”

Novo said it expects to boost capacity for Wegovy in 2023. 

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Analysts with GlobalData agree the company can get its supply in order. In a report Thursday, the team said it expects Novo to overcome supply chain challenges for Wegovy by the end of 2022.

More than 650 million people worldwide struggle with obesity, Novo Nordisk notes. It’s a tricky field to unlock, too, the company has said.

“Stigma and bias, reimbursement, the number of healthcare professionals that are actually prescribing and then, importantly, having patients seek treatment—those are all big hurdles to get over,” Doug Langa, Novo’s executive vice president for North America, told Fierce Pharma last year during the lead-up to Wegovy’s launch.

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There’s still work to do for obesity to be recognized as a disease warranting a pharmaceutical treatment, but the narrative around the condition is shifting, Novo pointed out.

The media has adopted a “more empathetic tone,” while the condition has won increased recognition among societies within healthcare, Novo said. The disease is also being recognized by policymakers, and patient groups are increasingly pushing patients with obesity to seek treatment, the Danish drugmaker said.

Together, Novo’s diabetes and obesity sales leaped 15% to 121.6 billion Danish krone in 2021. Obesity sales alone rose 55%. Novo hasn’t broken out individual sales figures for Wegovy yet, but Jefferies analysts recently estimated the drug generated about 700 million Danish krone ($104 million) for the last three months of 2021.